Rockland’s Angel

Law named after young Lauren Shields will save many lives

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

On Friday, June 22, 12-year-old Stony Point resident Lauren Shields visited the Nanuet office of Rockland County Senator David Carlucci to speak about the work she has done to influence the passage of “Lauren’s Law.”

After undergoing a successful heart transplant in 2009 Shields has made it her goal that more people become organ donors, saving lives of people such as her. The bill will make sure that those who apply for a New York driver’s license or learner’s permit complete the section on the application that deals with the organ donor registry.

The applicant must reply to the following question: “Would you like to be added to the Donate Life registry?” The applicant then must fill in the box for either “yes” or “skip this question.”

In the past, it was not required that applicants answered the question, resulting in a lower percentage of persons agreeing to become donors.

Senator Carlucci praised how Lauren spent her time after surgery to make a change in the organ donation system and the medical community. “She didn’t just sit back,” said Carlucci. “She decided to talk about her experiences. She is someone that really doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk.”

Tragically, 577 New Yorkers died last year while on the transplant waiting list. New Yorkers have to wait longer for a transplant than recipients in other states because of the low number of registered donors. Nationwide, 42 percent of the population is registered as organ donors, compared to only 18 percent in New York.

“As a kid it’s an overwhelming feeling to have a law named after you that will soon be signed by the governor,” said Lauren Shields. “A bill becoming law was something that I had only read about in text books at school but the reason behind it was so real to me. I never want anyone to have to wait for a transplant like I did.”

“Lauren’s Law will save lives and increase the state’s enrollment for organ donation,” said Senator Carlucci. “By making this simple change to our laws, we can implement what has successfully been accomplished in other states. With over 10,000 people right now in waiting for a life-saving organ donation, this legislation now makes it easier for donors to sign up and give the gift of life.”

Although the ordeal Lauren has gone through was stressful for her and her family, Lauren said she’s grown as a person through her travails.

“I feel very mature for my age,” the 12-year-old said. “After having a bill named after me and also being able to go up to Albany, I just feel like I’ve experienced so much in my short life.”

It is certainly a life that will be long-lived, and will offer so much to those in need. Lauren’s Law will come into effect one year after the governor signs it.